As England prepare to embark on another tour, this time to South Africa, questions have again been raised about the number of matches modern day international cricketers have to cope with.
The 2009 English summer began in early May – the earliest start to a home international season ever. There were two test and One Day series, against the West Indies and, of course, the Australians. Then there was the Twenty20 World Cup in June before the Champions Trophy in October. This hectic schedule means some players, such as captain Andrew Strauss, have had a six month summer. Strauss has already revealed he may miss the Bangladesh test series in February and March in order to have a breather.
It’s a good idea because just five weeks after the Bangladesh tour ends, England will travel to the Caribbean to contest the World Twenty20 at the beginning of May. Test series against Bangladesh and Pakistan at home will follow before they attempt to retain the Ashes down under. Added on top of that is the Twenty20 boom and the introduction of the Indian Premier League and the Champions League. Breathless stuff.
Boo hoo those who have limited sympathy for people who are earning good money for their dream job might say. And while I agree with them up to a point it is a concern that the sheer number of matches could lead to players being more selective about games they participate in.
And there is no doubt which form of the game they will choose: the vastly more lucrative Twenty20. We have already seen this with freelance Freddie - England talisman Andrew Flintoff rejecting an incremental contract from the ECB in order to be choosier over the games he is available for. Then think of the supporters. Watching cricket is an expensive business and too many games will prove to be a massive turn-off as well as an insurmountable burden on the wallet.
The players will follow the money, understandably, meaning test matches will ultimately suffer. The longer form of the game may not attract the audiences it used to in many cricketing nations, but it is still the backbone of the game. But it does not offer the rewards of Twenty/20, which is growing in popularity with those interested in cricket betting, and places considerably more demands on the body.
I’m all for expanding the game and bringing it to new audiences but a balance has to be made. But on this occasion I think you can have too much of a good thing.